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Why Nigeria needs to rethink hard stance on Cannabis (3)

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In 2018, South Africa decriminalised possession and cultivation of Cannabis, but not for sale. The country also allows it for medical purposes. Nigeria of course, does not have to follow everything other countries implement, but developing the right knowledge and making adjustments where found logical, should be considered.

“The Global State of Hemp: 2019 Industry Outlook”, notes that a significant educational process will be required among lawmakers and cultivators throughout the African continent regarding the difference between hemp and marijuana, and about the range of ways in which hemp can be used to address the continent’s economic growth and development challenges.

Stigma against cannabis remains high in many parts of the continent, especially in traditionally religious countries, and hemp seeds are even considered poisonous in some quarters. As educational and regulatory development progresses, Africa will be positioned to capitalize on the opportunities to come with joining the global hemp industry.

It has been described as a medicinal plant with economic benefits, not one that should be abused, particularly in the absence of requisite legislation. As noted in earlier parts of the article, there are variations of the cannabis plant, with diverse uses and not all is reduced to ‘drug’ purposes.

Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, CEO & founder, New Frontier Data, a company that says it is providing transparency into the cannabis industry via unbiased vetted data & analytics reporting, told BusinessDay in an emailed note, that increasing knowledge is gradually changing how Cannabis is perceived across the world.

According to Aguirre de Carcer, “in the past five years alone, cannabis perception has shifted dramatically away from a stigmatized drug, to a medicinal plant representing endless opportunities to generate revenue, combat the opioids epidemic, and support domestic socioeconomic growth.”

She further explained that as a result of increased availability and access to reliable data and mature research (accessible not only to regulators and financial stakeholders, but also patients and physicians), there is now a gradual expedited adoption and acceptance of cannabis and hemp production worldwide, with more than 50 nations having legalized medicinal cannabis programs.

Whether or not the approach to cannabis in Nigeria will become liberal, what is more important is developing the right knowledge on its potentials, and applications in different areas. The utilitarian purpose that can be developed for Cannabis should be as important as the perceived ills.

“Three of the world’s top 10 cannabis-consuming nations are in Africa, highlighting both the importance of cannabis reform and related business opportunities throughout the region,” said Aguirre de Carcer, whose company states on its website that it takes no stance on the legalization of cannabis, rather, to provide data that will be used to make informed decisions in the growing industry.

In healthcare, Medical cannabis is used to reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy for cancer patients, to improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms.

In Industrial Use (which applies strictly to hemp), Cannabis sativa cultivars are used for fibres due to their long stems. It refers to any industrial or foodstuff product that is not intended for use as a drug. Many countries regulate limits for the psychoactive compound (THC) concentrations in products labelled as hemp, making its industrial usage possible.

Cannabis for industrial uses is valuable in numerous commercial products, especially as fibre ranging from paper, cordage, construction material and textiles in general, to clothing. Hemp is described as stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. It is also a useful source of foodstuffs (hemp milk, hemp seed, hemp oil) and biofuels.

As part of what Aguirre de Carcer describes as efforts to increase knowledge and drive discourse about Cannabis, the company’s next InterCannAlliance Symposium, scheduled for May 24-25, will be taking place in Victoria Falls. It will bring together high-ranking African government officials with African and European financial stakeholders to openly discuss socioeconomic impacts of hemp cultivation across the continent, and Africa’s unique potentialities to meet exploding European CBD demand.

As recommended in the “Global State of Hemp: 2019 Industry Outlook”, to increase adoption and accelerate education, Africa needs a unifying organization like the FAO, African Union, or African Development Bank to step forward and help countries establish a central set of regulatory standards to jump-start hemp pilot projects for research and commercial cultivation.

Such action, the report notes, could develop regulatory frameworks and standards to start a hemp industry and protect farmers afraid that ignorant and/or corrupt government officials might seize their crops.

Hemp, cannabis, marijuana, still confusing? Hopefully not, but if it still is, when policy makers in Nigeria decide to embrace knowledge and figure out a utilitarian direction for the country as it pertains to Cannabis, then all possible confusion will hopefully be cleared.

 

Caleb Ojewale

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